Guest Blog – Peter’s Camino block prints

Peter McGlamery is a regular on this blog, and he’s currently walking the Camino. Last night he was in Pamplona.

Peter is a deft woodcarver – and before he left for his pilgrimage, he created some wood blocks so that he could make prints of the Camino emblem, the scallop shell, to give to people he met along The Way.

I asked him to explain how he did it, and why –

Hi Bill:

About the blocks… I mounted pieces of raw linoleum, glueing and clamping them to good Baltic birch plywood so that they’d be flat.  I originally did this because I’d been wanting to work with block printing … This had nothing to do with hiking the Camino.  Maybe I made the blocks sometime last year… At this point I had a stack of six blocks sized 8X10.

After accepting the call to hike to Santiago, naturally I thought about trail angels.  Trail angels are people who show up to help hikers… On the AT, trail angels hang out at places, picnic areas, state parks, road crossings… Wherever the trail comes out of the woods and crosses the road.  

But a trail angel can be anybody who picks you up, gives good energy, makes effort to be cheery, goes out of their way… shows a generosity of spirit.  I think I’ve met only one individual in Pamplona who showed me that kind of light in their face… The guy who I bought a herald tribune from today…

I think I began drawing scallop shells before I thought of making prints… Then, I took a couple of blocks down to the shop, trimmed them up on the jointer and pretty much arbitrarily made several small blocks for ” ammo”.  

I like using “Sharpie” indelible ink pens to draw on the blocks… Then carve around the marks… Simple and fast… There’s not much to it.  I had bought water based printer’s ink for ease of clean up.  The paper is a nice thick Italian paper, Fabriano, cold press… I found some in 4×4 inch sheets.  

I’m carrying a box of 90 sheets… questionably heavy.  I quartered those sheets by folding… I don’t like a neat edge… I prefer the deckle edge of handmade paper.  I’ve had an ink roller and a banana leaf barren since I was senior in high school in S. Korea… That’s a long time… Sort of a block printing kit.

Using a pane of tempered glass for rolling out ink.  I carefully roll the ink on the carved block… Apply the paper… The paper will stick to the ink… You don’t want to move it or it will smudge… And the smooth the back of the paper with the barren… The back of a big spoon makes a good barren too.

Pull your print… Let it dry… And there you have it.

I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I know how it feels to have something tangible from a friend.  My friend “Bob”, one of the guys who’s picture I put high in the Pyrenees, before he died, gave me three matching ancient 6 foot bar clamps.  I use them when I need to and I think about him every time.  I treasure them.  

I treasure Sister Marisol’s handwritten blessing which she wrote on a scrid of paper, which says “May God, who fills with his presence all the way, bless you, Peter with love. Marisol. Zabaldika”.  

Bill, you give the blog… It’s very generous of you.  
Peter McGlamery

Peter's blocks


Peter's block 3


Peter's block 2

8 thoughts on “Guest Blog – Peter’s Camino block prints

  1. Hey, I like these. I would love to buy one to take on our Camino in two weeks time. Artistic endeavours are so important. With an architect for a father, and a daughter who has a degree in photography and is now study architecture, I really appreciate pure simple art, in whatever form. Thanks Bill for giving Peter the opportunity to showcase his work on your blog. Thanks Peter, I love your work and admire it. Peter


    • Peter,
      If you like it, you can have it… They aren’t for the selling. Tell me where and I’ll try to send one out. They are just a sign of life… Intention, expression, simple effort… Almost like a yawn, a blink, a heartbeat.
      Stopping off in Zariquiegui… On the hill approaching the town… You can sense where The commanders stood while the battle roared. Where Charlemagne defeated Moors at a huge battle. Sending in the lancers… where the archers may have stood, etc. The ruins of an old castle rest in a sleeping beauty like bramble hedge at the foot of the draw. This is a powerful, powerful road. Quite warm, also. Resting feet here tonight. I want to see Puenta la Rena in morning light.


  2. Peter,

    I love them! They are just perfect.

    I’m a mosaic artist. After I came back from Camino last year, I created a scallop shell with the Cross of St. James in mini tiles on the wall in my backyard.

    The scallop shell is such a simple yet meaningful symbol, a symbol those of us who love the Camino know the powerful meaning of.

    By the way, isn’t it amazing how many things bear the symbol of the scallop shell? I never noticed this before I returned from the Camino but my dining room china cabinet, my living room couch, the headboard on my bed all have carved wood scallop shell designs. Makes me wonder, did I unwittingly know all along I would fall so deeply in love with the Camino?



    • I’ve done some tile-work… Nothing like your tile art. I’d like to… Also stained glass which I have being similar… I have a big tile floor job when I get back… Using old geometric Arabic tiles over a wire heat mesh for a heated floor in a spa. I try to keep away from masonry in general, tho… Too heavy! Oooffff! Ima no teenager!


      • Peter,

        There is a distinct possibility I may be doing a larger mural at a casas rurale in Ventosa next year.

        I will be staying there once again on Sept. 17th and will be discussing the mural with the owner. She already has 10 of my designs for the wall and want to speak specifics when I arrive.

        That would be a dream come true for me. One of my creations on a wall in Ventosa for all to see for who knows how long – many years forward I imagine. Mosaics when done properly are forever!

        I also work in stained glass and paint with oils, but mosaic work is my preferred medium.



  3. If you get thisleyme know, since mike and i are in the Camino for our 30th i would love to get one of these prints on the camino or when you get home if our paths do not cross! Thanks for your generosity and creativity! Kat

    Sent from my iPhone


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